Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Ontario pension plan is a terrifying idea

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The prospect of retiring on a meagre pension may worry some Ontarians. The prospect of their government starting its own mandatory Ontario Pension Plan should terrify them all.

Any benefit such a payout might bring years in the future would pale beside the serious harm it would do here and now to an economy still shaking in recessionary aftershocks.

Premier Kathleen Wynne is pushing a bad idea -- and doing so at the worst possible time. What is she thinking?

Let's agree there are legitimate concerns that at least some Canadians face bleak times when they stop working.

But how many need extra help? Four years ago, federal, provincial and territorial finance ministers agreed the federal pension system was not facing a crisis. They concluded 80 per cent of Canadians have been saving enough, through their pensions, savings programs, homes and investments.

It makes sense to push pension reform -- though even modest changes will be costly and hard to achieve. But direct the reforms to help the 20 per cent that really need it.

Wynne's proposal is different and, frankly, bizarre. It would create a new pension plan for everyone. And it would operate independently from the Canada Pension Plan, which already takes vast sums of money.

The new pension plan would demand massive contributions from Ontario workers, many of whom have endured years of stagnant wages and are already feeling strapped when it comes to paying bills and raising families.

Ontario employers would pay out more, too. Unless the other provinces followed Wynne's lead, Ontario businesses, with their higher costs, would be at a disadvantage when it came to competing win other parts of Canada.

Outside investors would think twice about sinking money into a new venture in Ontario when it could be done elsewhere more cheaply.

Through a decade in power, the Liberal government has asked much, and repeatedly taken more, from Ontarians. Wynne is part of the government that imposed a new health tax and the harmonized sales tax. It was the Liberals who drove up energy costs and brought in all-day kindergarten with its eventual price tag of more than $1 billion a year.

But it's not just that the Liberals have taken too much. They are hopelessly inept managers. Their green-energy dreams never delivered the bold new industrial sector they promised. And who can forget the bill of up to $1.1 billion they handed Ontarians for the politically motivated cancellation of two gas plants?

We wouldn't trust this sorry lot with running a church bazaar, let alone a new pension system requiring an expensive new provincial bureaucracy that would duplicate work already done by federal employees. How wasteful. How inefficient.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition October 21, 2013 A15

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